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October 21, 2016
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New calls for reservoir flood mitigation

TRENTON, NJ — With a mounting number of Pennsylvania and New Jersey counties seeking Delaware River flooding relief, a new spotlight has come onto four-state/New York City negotiations to extend existing management agreements.

Recent resolutions from Bucks County, PA, Warren and Sussex counties in New Jersey, and some of their local municipal governments recently were supported by the Wayne County, PA commissioners.

Citing the “ongoing unnecessary and dangerous threat” to residents and property downstream between “May 1 and June 15…, when historically flooding has occurred,” the county resolutions called on their states, along with New York and Delaware, to come to an agreement to “compel” New York City to restrict the filling of its reservoirs to 90% of capacity.

Their resolutions would create a 15 percentage-point reduction of the 105% storage limit provided by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1954 decision giving New York City primary control of Delaware River water. Since the decision, New York City and the four states have jointly been referred to as “the decree parties,” in reference to river flow management issues.

The target of a 10% void from September to March, along with other flow issues, was negotiated in 2007 in the so-called Flexible Flow Management Plan (FFMP). That three-year agreement has been renewed in subsequent one-year agreements through 2013.

Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) Deputy Director Robert Tudor last week noted that a four-state/NYC Flood Mitigation Task Force is negotiating a new long-term agreement scheduled to take effect in June of this year. Negotiations for that agreement could include a reduction in the storate limit to as low as 85%, as well as an extended time-frame for the limit, which has not previously been discussed.

Following a like resolution from New Hope Borough in Bucks County, their congressional representative Michael Fitzpatrick added his endorsement of the resolution calling for a year-round 10-percent reduction.

DRBC Executive Director Carol Collier responded to Fitzpatrick’s letter confirming his resolution support. In addition to other flood-warning and river-gauging improvements made with DRBC assistance in recent years, Collier wrote that “several proposals are under active consideration, including provisions for a more aggressive flood mitigation protocol.”

However, Collier noted that it’s “too early to comment on the viability of any one provision,” as the [decree] parties evaluate all potential FFMP adaptations interdependently,” regarding coincidental impacts to the fisheries, drought resiliency and drinking water supplies for both New York City and downstream communities in central New Jersey, Philadelphia and Bucks County.